Summary: We’re to look to God… 1. When we’re suffering. (13a) 2. When we have success and are happy. (13b) 3. When we have sickness. (14-15a) 4. And, when we’re in sin. (15b-16)
The Power of Praying People
It’s amazing how many bad things can happen to people. Here are some stories from a few years back…
—Paul Stiller, 47, was hospitalized when a quarter stick of dynamite blew up in his car. While driving around with his wife at 2AM, the bored couple lit the dynamite and tried to toss it out the window to see what would happen, but apparently failed to notice the window was closed (snopes.com).
—A man in England, who sneezed several hundred times each day for 35 years, was told by health officials that he was allergic to himself. He was cured after another doctor discovered that he simply had a reaction to the oatmeal he’d been eating for breakfast since childhood.
—And, in Thailand, an elephant ate 110 pounds of dried rice and then drank 65 gallons of water and, within a half hour, exploded.
-In our passage for today, James starts out by asking a question: “Is any one of you in trouble?” Well, none of us have ever eaten 110 lbs of rice nor have we been sneezing for 35 years, but most of us have had our share of trouble. In fact, some of you are right in the middle of some pretty tough stuff right now. Let’s look at the text for today.
James 5:13-16 13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
-There are at least three different kinds of prayer in this passage.
-First, we are to pray for ourselves in verse 13: “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray…”
-Second, we are to call for the elders of the church when we are really sick in verses 14-15: “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him…”
-Third, we are to pray for each other in verse 16: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed…”
-This passage not only gives us some indication of how to pray, but it also helps us determine when we are to pray. There are four distinct times that we’re to come before God. We’re to look to Him…
1. When we’re suffering. (13a)
2. When we have success and are happy. (13b)
3. When we have sickness. (14-15a)
4. And, when we’re in sin. (15b-16)
-James is expressing the fact that life is made up of triumph and tragedy, of sorrow and joy. Sickness can trip us up and sin can entangle us. We rarely know what to expect. Life is often totally unpredictable. Anyone who has had an accident or has had a family member suddenly get sick, can attest that life can change radically in just a matter of seconds. In addition, we all know firsthand how sin can devastate and destroy lives and some of us are living today with the consequences of wrong choices.
-So, let’s take a closer look at each one of these.
1. Pray when you’re suffering.
-The first part of verse 13 asks a question: “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray.” The word James uses here refers to suffering of any kind. It can include sickness but also covers death, disappointment, and persecution.
-When we’re in trouble, we are to pray as Psalm 34:4 reminds us: “I sought the LORD, and he answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.” When we’re in a mess we should pray for wisdom, strength, and for the removal of the suffering, if it is the Lord’s will. We have the privilege of prayer where we can go to God at any time, in any situation with whatever is on our hearts. I don’t know how people can go through hard times without the Lord in their lives.
-The Bible is clear that suffering is the normal expectation for every believer. Peter puts it rather bluntly in 1 Peter 4:12: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” But, even though we know life is never easy, we can give way to self-pity or get resentful and discouraged. When we sense that the pressures of life are greater than we can bear, James says, “Pray.”